Shark attack not enough as Bulls fall to Akron
Forward’s career day bittersweet with narrow loss to powerful conference foe
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 22:03
CLEVELAND – Sophomore forward Kristen Sharkey had a “do or die” mentality on Thursday afternoon in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. She knew a loss meant her team’s season would end. Throughout the contest, Sharkey hit shots from all over the low post, creating miscommunication amongst defenders.
Sharkey pieced together the best performance of her career – tallying 26 points and seven rebounds – but it was not enough, as the No. 7 seed Bulls (12-20, 8-8 MAC) fell 83-79 to No. 3 Akron (22-8, 12-4 MAC) in the quarterfinals in Quicken Loans Arena.
Sharkey’s resilience throughout the second half helped jump start a 24-12 run to start the second half. Though Buffalo trailed 48-36 at the half, the Bulls led 58-57 by the 12:27 mark.
Sharkey infiltrated Akron to give the Bulls a fighting chance to keep their surprising season alive.
In doing so, she was unaware of the damage she did to her opposition.
“I didn’t even notice I had as many points as I did,” Sharkey said. “Margeaux [Gupilan] just keept telling me ‘Sharkey, go to work, go to work.’ Our teammates put their trust in me, so I had to come through for them.”
However, at a pivotal moment in the game where points were at a premium, the Zips’ Taylor Ruper drew a foul that led to a four-point play with 5:38 left in regulation, changing the complexion of the game.
“We needed that,” said Zips head coach Jodi Kest. “We had a tough second half. They had the momentum; they started to feel good. When you are feeling good, it doesn’t matter how many games you’ve played in a row.”
The Bulls defensively were able to shut down Akron forward Rachel Tecca – who was recently named MAC Player of the Year – holding her to 13 points and 6-for-9 shooting from the field, helping the Bulls regain their ground in the second half.
Their defensive adjustment allowed Buffalo to move the ball effectively, resulting in a 54.3 percent shooting performance from the field in the second half.
“We watched the movie Invictus on the way here and I reminded them [about] that man that we watched, what he stood for,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “The quote I used was: ‘You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.’ And [what] you become in the second half will determine how you look in the mirror this summer.”
Junior guard Gupilan and sophomore forward Christa Baccas also marked up the stat sheet for the Bulls. Gupilan finished the game with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Baccas added 12 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks.
“We fought hard; we did the best we could. Akron came out ready to go,” Gupilan said. “We fell short in the first half but we picked it up in the second. I think we just ran out of time.”
Although the Bulls’ season is finished, there are still high points to look forward to next season.
The Bulls only lose one senior in guard Nicki Hopkins. They will return 12 players, along with a brand new recruiting class to keep moving in the right direction.
“We have got to get back to work,” Legette-Jack said. “We are going to get really involved in our strength and conditioning, we are going to get really involved in our nutrition, we are going to get really involved in the four young ladies that have committed to come play with us next season.”
Akron moves on to play No. 2 Ball State (15-14, 12-4 MAC) in the semifinals Friday at 2:30 p.m.